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attempted to fupply. Whatever reception the pre fent age or pofterity may give this work, we reft fatisfied with our own endeavours to deferve a kind one. The completion of our defign has for fome years taken up all the time we could fpare from other occupations, of lefs importance indeed to the public, but probably more advantageous to ourselves. We are unwilling therefore to dismiss this fubject without obferving, that the labour of fo great a part of life fhould at least be examined with candour, and not carelessly confounded in that multiplicity of daily publications which are conceived without effort, are produced without praise, and fink without cenfure.
THERE are fome fubjects on which a writer muft decline all attempts to acquire fame, fatisfied with being obfcurely ufeful. After fuch a number of Roman Hiftories, in almoft all languages, antient and modern, it would be but impofture to pretend new discoveries, or to expect to offer any thing in a work of this kind, which has not been often anticipated by others. The facts which it relates have been an hundred times repeated, and every occurrence has been fo variously confidered, that learning can scarcely find a new anecdote, or genius give novelty to the old. I hope, therefore, for the reader's indulgence, if, in the following attempt, it fhall appear, that my only aim was to fupply a concife, plain, and unaffected narrative of the Rife and Decline of a well-known empire. I was contented to make fuch a book as could not fail of being serviceable, though of all others the most unlikely to promote the reputation of the writer. Inftead, therefore, of preffing forward among the ambitious, I only claim the merit of knowing my own ftrength, and falling back among the hindmoft ranks, with confcious inferiority.
I am not ignorant, however, that it would be no difficult talk to purfue the fame art by which many dull men, every day, acquire a reputation in Hiftory; fuch might eafily be attained, by fixing on fome obfcure period to write upon, where much feeming erudition might be difplayed, almoft unknown, because not worth remembering; and many maxims in politicks might be advanced entirely new, because altogether falfe. But I have purfued a contrary method, choofing the most noted period
in Hiftory, and offering no remarks but fuch as I thought strictly true.
The reafons of my choice were, that we had no hiftory of this fplendid period in our language, but what was either too voluminous for common ufe, or too meanly written to pleafe. Catrou and Rouille's history in fix volumes folio, tranflated into our language by Bundy, is entirely unfuited to the time and expence mankind usually choose to bestow upon this fubject: Rollin and his continuator Crevier, making nearly thirty volumes octavo, feem to labour under the fame imputation; as likewife Hooke, who has spent three quartos upon the Republic alone, the reft of his undertaking remaining unfinished *. There only, therefore, remained the hiftory by Echard, in five volumes octavo, whofe plan and mine feemed to coincide; and had his execution been equal to his defign, it had precluded the prefent undertaking. But the truth is, it is fo poorly written, the facts fo crowded, the narration fo fpiritlefs, and the characters fo indiftinctly marked, that the moft ardent curiofity muft cool in the perusal; and the nobleft tranfactions that ever warmed the human heart, as defcribed by him, muft ceafe to intereft.
I have endeavoured, therefore, in the prefent work, or rather compilation, to obviate the inconveniences arifing from the exuberance of the former, as well as from the unpleasantnefs of the latter. It was fuppofed, that two volumes might be made to comprize all that was requifite to be known, or pleafing to be read, by fuch as only examined Hiftory, to prepare them for more important ftudies. Too much time may be given even to laudable pursuits, and
* Mr. Hooke's three quartos above-mentioned reach only to the end of the Gallic war. A fourth volume to the end of the Republic, was afterwards published in 1771. Dr. Goldfmith's preface was written in 1769. Mr. Hooke's quarto edition has been republished in eleven volumes octavo.